Think Inside the Box

As we are designing a new training initiative at work, a colleague thanked me for my creative ideas. While it is very flattering to be called creative, I would prefer to call my thinking connecting. For example, there may be a business rationale, of not making people travel long distances for a meeting of 2 hours. Or people have grown used to consume well-designed training content, so they can stay inside their comfort design, so how does the new initiative fit to these expectations?

What I want to point out, is that seeing and naming the obvious, seems to be so unfashionable, that those, who do it, can win extra points. 

You may have heard about the out-of-the box thinking. As Keith Johnstone says in this little video, people are too preoccupied with the out-of-the-box-thinking, they cannot see the obvious anymore. Yes. Thanks to improvisation theatre, I have learned to overcome that judging voice that tells me about the result before anything has happened, which keeps me from being in the present moment. Since I have started being OK with not knowing what the result will be, I can first of all identify the box for any given situation, then to explore the box carefully, so that I can find - what? Ways out of the box, ways to re-design the box, or to enlargen the box, or find that there was no box in the first place.

This is a question of exercise, and we all exercise it as kids, when we play. But at some point, we grow smart and loose the connection to the obvious and to the moment. Want to go back? Find a place to play. Or find an improvisation theatre class. And don't forget that this is fun!

The Perfect Presentation

©Brett Jourdan on Unsplash
These days I met with a highly motivated young facilitator who had put all his effort into giving a perfect presentation. He was quite a bit disappointed, when I said that we should not concentrate on the slides anymore, but look at crafting the message better. I assume he was also a bit confused as to what I ment. This made me remember my own confusion, when I did my best to give the perfect stage production only to hear from my teachers that it had been boring.

If you, too, are wondering, why an imperfect presentation is better to engage the audience than the perfect one, here is a little (imperfect) explanation:

Gestalt psychology has found that the human mind gets active, if a figure is not complete. If you look at the picture to the left, you see one letter missing, but you can read the word nevertheless. The mind fills the gap. And the mind likes filling the gap. If there is a perfect presentation, there is no gap. The audience may relax and simply watch. You have done the thinking for them, the "gestalt" is complete. 

In facilitation, you want the audience to think with you. If something is not perfect and you accept them filling in for the gap, you have a great buy-in that they will follow you to the end. While this sounds easy, it is sometimes so hard, because we don't want to look incompetent. I would argue that the more skilled a facilitator is, the more they are able to identify the right gaps for a given audience.

Want to try it? I recommend experimenting in a space where seeming incompetent is not as threatening. Can you think of a simple joke that made you laugh? If so, try to tell this joke to other people. Observe, in which cases you can get people to laugh. Are you using questions? How can a simple break before giving away the point help you?